nARCHITECTS was commissioned by the City of Auburn, NY and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to design the New York State Equal Rights Heritage Center and public outdoor space in historic Auburn, NY. The new 7,500sf project transformed a former municipal parking lot into the new civic and cultural heart of historic Auburn, NY, home of Harriet Tubman.
In the words of Governor Cuomo, “The Equal Rights Heritage Center in Auburn honors the efforts and sacrifices made by the many in the fight for justice and equality.” Unlike a museum setting, the building and exhibition is conceived as a portal to the many tourist attractions throughout the state that are connected with the struggled for equal rights. From the NY State Parks press release: “The 7,500-square foot facility includes exhibition and community spaces, interactive maps and videos that will educate and highlight the role the State and New Yorkers have played in the struggle for women’s rights, abolition, civil rights and the more recent efforts for LGBTQ rights.”
Balancing its identity as a new addition to Auburn at the edge of the historic district and downtown, the design of the new Heritage Center building sought to create meaningful connections between past and present, as well as interior and exterior space with a sensitive contemporary design. Drawing from its historic context, the one-storey building’s form pays particular attention to proportion with large glazing shaped to echo adjacent roof lines and fine brickwork detailing. Angled brick volumes rotate and intersect creating framed views that celebrate the surrounding landscape and significant historic landmarks.
Landscaping was designed with an aim to provide a significant new public green space for downtown Auburn. A new oval shaped public square on the building’s east side across from City Hall provides a flexible outdoor space for cultural events in a setting of native plantings, pavers, urban furniture and site lighting. The new statue of Harriett Tubman by sculptor Brian Hanlon anchors its southern edge, with Harriet facing north. A grassy lawn on the building’s west side, across from Westminster Church, provides a passive recreation space. The design team also reorganized adjacent streets, narrowing the Loop Road to two lanes and expanding pedestrian space, thereby offsetting some of the remnants of Urban Renewal planning from the 19070s.
Construction began in February 2018, and was completed in November 2018, on schedule and budget.